Friday, March 18, 2011

Books to Explain Tragedies

I am in distress over the devastation of the people in Japan during these times.  The natural disasters that have taken place are events that children in our own country of the United States can truly never understand.  The video footage available through media even looks to be that of which movies are made.  I watch them over and over repeating to myself, "It just can't be."

As teachers and parents, it is our responsibility to inform and educate our children of these traumatic and historical events in our ever changing world.  They teach our children empathy and generosity, as well as gratitude for their own safe homes (well, at least safer, we hope, than a tsunami).  Taking time away from our normal curriculum to help our children try and understand what led up to these natural disasters and learn about the devastation that follows is what we do.

One way to weave this in is with the picture book Tsunami, a book of sacrifice by, of course, Ed Young.

Tsunami (2009) is the story of an earthquake, a fire and a tsunami along with the selfless heroism of a wealthy old rice farmer who lives high on the mountainside, above a village.  The farmer feels the tremors of the upcoming disaster and sets his beautiful fields afire to draw the villagers upland in hopes of saving their lives.  The result is the ruins of his crop.  Seems a small price to pay for the lives of his people.  This story is based on a true story of a Japanese hero, who in 1854, set his own rice fields ablaze to save hundreds of lives.

Ed Young, a Caldocott winner for Lon Po Po, creates a visual playground of collage illustrations combining torn paper to cardboard to photos to straw to bamboo.  Readers and artists alike will sense the terror felt when the black wave engulfs the land and destroys the village in his captivating artwork.  Myself, I felt a need to create my own representation this story after studying these scenes.  Artists are immediately inspired.

If this book is not on your shelves or in the hands of your students, it should be.

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